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My Dad, Yogi: A Memoir of Family and Baseball

Review

My Dad, Yogi: A Memoir of Family and Baseball

Just in time for Father’s Day, MY DAD, YOGI arrives in bookstores across America. It is an entertaining and often moving story of a baseball family whose patriarch is perhaps the most quoted athlete in sports history. Yogi Berra was a talented catcher and a successful manager, and is a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. But he is most remembered for his malapropisms than for any of his numerous achievements on the baseball diamond.

An accomplished major league baseball player in his own right, Dale Berra, Yogi’s youngest son, brings a different perspective on life growing up in the Berra household. Baseball is a game that fathers often teach their sons to play. Other lessons in life are far more difficult, and as years progress, parents and children learn from each other.

Yogi, who died in 2015 at the age of 90, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972. His career included 18 appearances in the All-Star Game, 10 World Series championships and three American League MVP awards. From 1949-55, on a team with star players Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, it was Yogi who led the Yankees in RBI for seven consecutive seasons. While his baseball statistics are remarkable and place him in the upper echelon of catchers, MY DAD, YOGI is not a book recounting game and season highlights.

"...an entertaining and often moving story of a baseball family whose patriarch is perhaps the most quoted athlete in sports history."

Not only was Yogi one of the greatest players on one of the greatest teams in the greatest era of baseball, he was also a father. And while the sport often took him away from his home in Montclair, New Jersey, he still worked hard at being a dad to his three sons. Dale includes many comments from his brothers, Larry and Tim, which emphasize that the Berra household was in most ways no different from any other American family of its era.

Generational differences between Yogi and Dale impacted their respective lives. Yogi played for the Yankees during an era when alcohol was the drug of choice for players; it destroyed careers and shortened many others. Writers who covered the team kept this secret from fans. Dale played in an era when cocaine was the preferred drug. By this time, the media was not so reticent to report on drug use. Dale would testify in a criminal trial and admit to using cocaine. He pled guilty in state court to drug possession and received a light sentence, as well as a technical suspension from baseball.

The father-son dynamic played out in the Berra family as it did in many American families in the ’80s. Yogi was the father trying to help, but not really understanding what to do. Dale, while acknowledging his drug dependence, believed it was not a problem and that he could stop whenever he wished. Eventually his family had to intervene. Dale is candid about his battle with drugs and the sorrow it brought to his loved ones.

This is not a book for hardcore baseball fans interested only in statistics and highlights from Yogi’s career. Yogi was best known for his famous “Yogi-isms,” the unique comments on life that were part philosophy and part malapropism. These quotes attributed to him now fill books and can also be found on the internet through a simple Google search. Many are legendary. When inducted into the Hall of Fame, he made certain to include one in his speech: “I guess the first thing I should say is I want to thank everyone who made this day necessary.” Yogi knew that these were a gold mine, and he cultivated their use, accepting credit for some that truly were not his.

Shortly after his death, President Barack Obama awarded Yogi the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Quoting him, Obama, an accomplished wordsmith in his own right, observed, “One thing we know for sure: If you can't imitate him, don't copy him."

Enjoy MY DAD, YOGI for what it is: a story about a loving man and his family. Dale Berra reminds readers that his father wanted only the best for his family, even in difficult and complicated times. Every father wants no less for his children.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on June 7, 2019

My Dad, Yogi: A Memoir of Family and Baseball
by Dale Berra with Mark Ribowsky

  • Publication Date: May 7, 2019
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction, Sports
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books
  • ISBN-10: 0316525456
  • ISBN-13: 9780316525459